Conversion Under Torts | Notes on Law of Torts
Conversion: Conversion is any act in relation to the goods of a person which constitutes an unjustifiable denial of his title to them. (Winfield)
Essentials of Conversion
- Wrongfully taking possession of goods.
- Abusing possession of them.
- Denying title or asserting one’s right.
- Taking possession: If A snatches the hat of B with an intention to steal it, it amounts to conversion. In Foldes V. Willouby, A and his horses embarked on B’s boat. A dispute arose between A and B. B put the horse on the shore and went to the other side with A. A claimed that B had committed conversion. Held: No conversion.
In Richardson V. Atkinson, D drew out some quantity of wine from cask of P, but added water to fill up the cask. Held, D was liable for conversion.
- Abusing Possession: A person may be in possession of goods of another as a Bailee, pawnee, Trustee etc. If he abuses his possession by selling or disposing of, he is liable for conversion. If A makes omlette out of eggs given by B for custody, or if A makes a statue out of log of wood of B given for custody, there is conversion. If a bailee abuses his possession Eg. : Carrier, using customer’s goods for himself, there is conversion.
- Denying Title: Denial of title of plaintiff amounts to conversion. A let-out his land to B, B had dumped some material C bought the land from A and used up part of the materials. Held : C liable for conversion.
“Finder is keeping is a dangerous half truth”
The finder of goods has every right against all persons in the world except the real owner. However, if the owner is not traced or if the owner makes no claim, question arises as to the rights of the finder of goods.
1, In Armory V. Delamire : A Chimney sweeper found a jewel when he was weeping a chimney. He gave it to S, servant of a goldsmith for purpose of valuation. S refused to return the same. Held: Chimney sweeper was entitled. He had a better title than S.
2, In Water Co., V. Sharman : P appointed D to clean his pool. While cleaning, D found two gold rings. The owner could not be traced. Held : P was entitled. Reason : For things found on land, the presumption is that the owner is entitled, as he has custody over
3, In Bridges V. Hawkesworth : P a customer found a bundle of currency notes on the floor of D’s shop. The owner could not be traced. Held: P was entitled to the notes. Reason : D was never in the custody of the currency notes, before they were found. Hence the law relating to finding is that “The finder has a better title than all others, except the real owner”.